|You are in: Special Report: 1999: 04/99: Thatcher Anniversary|
Tuesday, 4 May, 1999, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
Three terms, two strikes and out
Baroness Thatcher became the UK's first female prime minister in 1979.
A grocer's daughter from Grantham, Lincolnshire, Margaret Thatcher was elected to the Commons at the age of 33 and became the first female leader of a UK political party when she took over from Edward Heath as Conservative leader in 1975.
Four years later, she entered 10 Downing Street and the history books, quoting St Francis of Assisi: "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope."
During the next 11 years, she changed the UK forever.
Upon entering office, Baroness Thatcher advocated measures aimed at limiting government control that would give individuals greater independence from the state, end government interference in the economy, and reduce public expenditure.
The first Budget of her era, delivered by Geoffrey Howe paved the way, ending Keynesian economic management.
Taxes were cut but a recession in manufacturing followed and the nation was forced to watch as unemployment almost trebled.
Macro-economic policies were not the only way the UK's finances changed in three administrations.
Share ownership became the right of the ordinary man with the floatation of a number of previously state-owned firms such as British Telecom and other privatised utilities.
Then, with a year to go before a general election, the UK was launched into conflict with Argentina over islands thousands of miles away in the South Atlantic.
On 5 April 1982, the UK task force set out on a 7,500 mile journey to liberate a group of tiny windswept islands which few Britons could locate on a map.
The conflict lasted from April until June in 1982 and killed 255 UK servicemen and 650 Argentine troops.
The Falklands War changed the political landscape and the following year saw Baroness Thatcher re-elected with a 144 majority.
Like the prime minister, earlier victories had made the miners confident. They chose to take industrial action in 1984.
But very early on it became clear that the miners' strike was a very different type of industrial action, one of division and violence.
While the police fought British miners, soldiers in Northern Ireland faced the continued sectarian troubles which included attacks in the rest of the UK.
The IRA bomb killed five people died and injured many, including Lord Tebbit and Lord Wakeham.
In the same year the prime minister demanded a rebate from the EU at Fontainbleu. That was consolidated four years later in her famous Bruges speech calling for "our money back".
The year-long strike the miners had endured in the north was mirrored by an equally long battle by outside Rupert Murdoch's Fortress Wapping in the south.
The two union actions were crushed by four pieces of legislation introduced during Baroness Thatcher's three administrations: Employment Act 1980, Employment Act 1982, Trade Union Act 1984 and the Employment Act 1988.
This effectively had three major consequences for the unions. It ended the closed shop, union officials were made more accountable and democratic, there were prescribed procedures to be followed to secure consent for a strike and "flying pickets" were outlawed.
Goodbye to the GLC
In 1986, Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine walked out of the Cabinet over the Westland Helicopters affair, a departure which was followed by Trade Secretary Sir Leon Brittan's resignation.
April that year also saw the end of the Greater London Council and six other local metropolitan borough authorities.
The government argued for streamlining England's large cities, saying the GLC and other bodies were expensive and an unnecessary layer of local government.
The same year also saw the bombing of Libya by US planes, which set off from bases in the UK.
In 1987, Mrs Thatcher celebrated her third election victory in which she returned to power with a 101 majority.
Her final administration saw the introduction of the community charge, which would be forever known as the poll tax.
It was first rolled out in Scotland in 1989, a year before it was introduced in England and Wales.
However, expectations on how much individuals would pay made prior to its introduction turned out to be well below the reality and it was widely felt to be unfair.
The spring of 1990 saw the worst civil demonstration in living memory when a protest against the poll tax turned into a riot in London's Trafalgar Square.
The poll tax would last out the leader who introduced it.
The last few months of 1989 had seen Nigel Lawson quit the Cabinet over the government's failure to join ERM and a stalking horse, in the form of backbencher Sir Anthony Meyer, sounded a warning to her leadership.
Britain did reluctantly enter ERM in 1990 after the prime minister faced more resignation threats from leading frontbenchers.
One of those, Sir Geoffrey Howe quit in November and his resignation speech in the Commons became a rallying call for would-be successors to challenge the premier.
Less than a fortnight later Baroness Thatcher's premiership was over after she resigned, believing her support had finally ebbed away.
But it would be another seven years before the Conservatives lost power and it is a matter of opinion how long it will be before her influence is no longer felt in politics.
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